Archive for April 24th, 2010

Pisa to Caldana (56.17 miles in 4 hours 25 minutes moving)

I know that I’ve been complaining a lot lately, so I’m making a conscious effort to focus on the positives. After “Just a Ride” by JEM randomly played on my iPod today, the song lyrics reminded me that I have been blessed with an amazing opportunity to take this trip, and share my experiences, and I need to stop sweating the small stuff.

The chorus goes:

It’s just a ride, it’s just a ride

No need to run, no need to hide

It’ll take you round and round

Sometimes you’re up

Sometimes you’re down

It’s just a ride, it’s just a ride

Don’t be scared

Don’t hide your eyes

It may feel so real inside

But don’t forget it’s just a ride

I woke up and didn’t hear the now-familiar sound of rain on my tent! I used my towel to get most of the water so that it would dry quickly in the sun as I got everything else packed up, and I was able to put a nearly-dry tent back in its stuff-sack.  I said goodbye to Camping Torre Pendente and biked back into Pisa, past the Leaning Tower, and into the shopping district, where I was easily able to find the Vodafone store again. Positive: It was open and I was able to talk to the same employee who helped me last time and had added the iPhone internet plan to my SIM for free! Negative: After calling someone in Vodafone technical support, he assured me that I would get a text message in the afternoon, at which time my internet should work. Though I did receive the text, no dice on the iPhone internet access still.

My route took me through quite a bit of the city, before heading south out of town, and it was pretty easy for me to stay on the right roads today, because there weren’t too my turns, and in general, the street signs pointing towards various towns have been abundant! I barely even had to get out my GPS and double-check that I was on the correct route! I was no longer on a coastal road, instead enjoying the inland fields of Tuscany.  Only five miles into the day though, I heard an explosion of air, and then my steering became mushy. I pulled off the road, with a completely flat rear wheel, and made quick work of unloading the bike so I could fix the tire. Once again, there didn’t seem to be any foreign body puncturing the tube, but a portion of the sidewall had weakened at the place where it attaches to the bead, just as had happened with the worn tire that I replaced after the first 900 miles.  I’m not particularly impressed with these Kenda Kwest tires’ durability and will not be recommending them or purchasing them again. I thought that I could patch this tube, saving a new tube for another time if there was a larger blowout, so I did just that and then I used the roll of black duct tape that I keep attached to the strap of my messenger bag (travel tip!) to reinforce the inside of the tube in the weak area.  I’ve also heard about using a folded dollar bill for the same purpose.  A quick inspection showed that there didn’t seem to be any other problem spots yet on the tire, so I got the tube and tire refitted and re-inflated.  The whole stop, including unloading and reloading my bicycle took just 20 minutes and I was feeling mighty proud of myself! Until about three miles further down the road when I heard a slower hiss of air and had to pull off the road with another rear flat. I determined that the air had leaked out of the patched site, and decided to just put a brand new tube in, the whole time thinking “Please let me finish these last 200 miles to Rome without having to struggle with more flat tubes from these rapidly wearing tires!”

As I bicycled along, I saw field after field full of brilliant yellow wildflowers, but to my frustration, there always seemed to be ugly high-voltage power lines running through the field and ruining the photo opportunity. I’m a bit conflicted, because I need my electricity and high-speed data networks at least as much (maybe more) as the next person, but on this trip, I have seen so many beautiful locations marred by a large cable or four cutting through the view.  I know that I could Photoshop the power lines out of the photo, but then I would be lying about the beauty of these places I am visiting, right?

Yellow on Yellow

Yellow on Yellow

I was starting to theorize that it’s the electromagnetic fields that help the wildflowers sprout, but finally I found a nice field without any distractions! Although I started the day with a bit of a headwind, in the afternoon I suddenly found myself with a nice tailwind that gave me a chance to cruise in the aerobars at 15-17 miles per hour, and I arrived at Park Albatross well before sunset and just as my cycle-odometer flipped past 1400 miles total for the trip! This early arrival made me very happy, considering I had changed two flat tires and ridden 56 miles!  Albatross was absolutely huge, and even at such a late hour on a Saturday, there were teams of construction workers everywhere, working on renovating and building new laundrymat facilities, restaurants, and bars for the fast-approaching busy season. There were three zero-depth entry pools with large concrete “icebergs” in the center for climbing and sunning, and a poolside restaurant that wasn’t open, but would surely be a fun place for some mid-day drinks and lunch.  Despite all of the construction activity, I couldn’t find anyone in or near the reception desk to get checked in, so I picked a place and set up my tent.  I also couldn’t seem to find the bathrooms and showers, which I would have expected would be sprinkled judiciously around the campsite, given its size! Knowing I had a long day coming up, I called it a night early, but not before experiencing some extremely painful cramps in both of my thighs! I tried to stretch and massage them out, and hopefully they won’t give me more trouble during the last few days of cycling!